Mumbai: When Jet Airways’ Mumbai-Jaipur flight took off on Thursday morning, some noted it was stuffy inside the plane. Approximately 15 minutes later, the oxygen masks dropped. Passenger Ankur Kala put the mask to his face, but it didn’t help. “When I removed my mask it was full of blood,” said Kala.
Kala was one of 30 passengers who suffered headaches along with ear and nose bleeds when the cabin pressure in Jet Airways’ flight 9W 697 dropped, allegedly due to the cockpit crew forgetting to turn on a switch that maintains cabin pressure. There were 166 passengers and seven crew members, including five attendants, on board the flight, which took off at 6.16 AM and turned back due to the medical emergency on board. It returned to Mumbai at 7.04 AM. For those 45-odd minutes, tensions ran high with the low cabin pressure leaving the cabin crew at a loss and passengers in pain and panic.
Darshak Hathi, another passenger, said, “I had severe headache due to the low cabin pressure. We were all surprised when the oxygen masks got deployed.” A passenger who requested anonymity said, “Though people cooperated well and followed the crew instructions after oxygen masks were deployed, few of them found it difficult to handle the decreased cabin pressure. One of the lady passengers seated behind me screamed twice because of ear pain.”
Kala, who has demanded a compensation of 30 lakh and 100 upgrade vouchers from Jet Airways, alleged the cabin crew was unhelpful. “We were covering our ears and holding the oxygen mask with our hands but it was still intolerable… I told my co-passengers that I am bleeding and waved to the air hostess, but she told me to remain seated and that all is normal,” he said. Satish Nair, another passenger who reported nasal bleeding, said, “The preparedness of all stakeholders was not up to mark as they did not respond well to an emergency like this.” Passenger Amit Relan said, “We were clueless what was happening. We were not even offered a bottle of water.”
After the flight landed at Mumbai, the passengers were separated into two groups, with those suffering nose and ear bleeds promised priority transport to the terminal. Kala, Anveshan Ray, Mukesh Sharma, Vikas Agarwal and Damodar Das were later taken to Nanavati Super Specialty Hospital. They reached the hospital between 11 AM and noon.
Dr Rajendra Patankar, chief operating officer of Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, issued a statement that the five were suffering from “Barotrauma with bleeding from nose and or ear”. He also said, “All patients are hemo-dynamically stable as of now and are advised to avoid air travel for at least a week and follow up with the consultant.” The five were discharged later in the day.
Passengers were also critical of Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport’s facilities. “The so-called world class airport did not have doctors as soon as we reached the terminal. The nurses helped us before the doctors could take over. The regulator needs to take immediate action to help avoid such situations in future,” said Nair.
All passengers were examined by doctors at the airport and 144 of them opted to take the flight that left Mumbai at 10.40 AM. Seventeen passengers said they would travel at a later date.